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NASCAR’s NextGen car creates big controversy at Bristol

NASCAR entered Bristol with many unknowns and it created big controversy over the night. Let's dive into what happened and drivers reactions to the NextGen car.

Austin Konenski
NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR entered Bristol Motor Speedway with many unknowns after not running the pavement race earlier in the season. Those unknowns ended up creating one of the craziest races in recent memory.

Let’s dive into the issues the NextGen car faced and what drivers said about the event.

Evaluating what took place at Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The NextGen car wasn’t entirely at fault for what took place on Saturday night but it contributed to the struggles of the short track package during the 2022 season.

The car was critisized for its lack of durability with power steering issues, tire problems, and other mechanical issues that saw many drivers lose a shot at a championship and finishing the event.

It was also incredibly hard to pass as there were only four lead changes under green flag conditions, which marks the fewest in a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway in over a decade of racing.

The NextGen car has been a major success at intermediate tracks but the short tracks have been a nightmare this season. The first race at Martinsville Speedway started the criticism and it has been ramping up ever since.

The NextGen car has been at the center of attention for many reasons and this only further increases those complaints. The safety of the car has been questioned while other situations, such as fires, have been taking place.

Even more issues took place because Goodyear simply did not bring tires that were good enough for the weekend. Brad Keselowski ran the entire first stage on the same set of tires and beat those on fresh tires. It was said by Keselowski that he could have ran 300 laps on that set.

This combined with the NextGen car’s issues created notable driver reactions about the event.

Related: Kevin Harvick speaks the truth about NASCAR’s NextGen car

NASCAR drivers react to the event at Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR’s NextGen car and racing at Bristol Motor Speedway led to some notable driver reactions, including the entire Joe Gibbs Racing camp and Harvick as they all experienced issues on Satuday.

Christopher Bell said the car drove great with old tires as the leader but new tires behind the leader didn’t make the car drive as well as it did with the old tires out front.

That is a major concern as Chris Buescher took two tires and drove to victory while everyone else behind had four fresh tires. It’s simply not a good situation when tires are not wearing properly.

Kyle Busch found himself “flabbergasted” about his second engine failure in three races. It knocked Busch out of the playoffs as he exited in the Round of 16. It was a very disappointing night for the driver of the No. 18 car.

Martin Truex Jr. took aim at the NextGen car after a mechanical issue ended his day. In fact, Truex threw it back to what Harvick said following his incident at Darlington Raceway earlier in the playoffs.

“What did Kevin Harvick say, crappy parts?”

Martin Truex Jr. on the mechanical issue that ended his night at Bristol

It is the second time a driver has directed their frustration at the NextGen car’s parts after a mechanical issue out of their control ended the night. Some cars simply could not handle Bristol for that long.

In fact, Chase Briscoe’s power steering didn’t even make it four laps and the next 496 laps were some of the toughest laps he would ever drive with steering issues at a very demanding race track.

Denny Hamlin showed his displeasure with the NextGen car on social media after the event. The vehicle has seen numerous issues that range from safety to durability.

It’s understandable why NASCAR is seeing so many issues with the NextGen car because it is new and there will be gremlins. However, it is clear that some drivers are fed up with it and want change soon.

Harvick was another driver that showed his displeasure with the NextGen car after the race at Bristol that knocked him out of the NASCAR playoffs.

“The car is way too fast through the corners. Can’t race.”

Kevin Harvick on the NextGen car at Bristol

This is something that Hamlin also talked about post-race. Hamlin described how the car felt like it was running faster in the corners than it did on the actual straightaways.

There are a lot of issues the NextGen car has brought forward this year. The racing has been very good and there is no reason to scrap the concept. This makes the sport better in the long-term.

However, NASCAR needs to work with the drivers to solve these issues of safety, durability, and more to make sure the future of the sport remains very bright.